Sonja lives and works as an illustrator and designer in Vienna, Austria. In 2012 she graduated from University in Salzburg where she studied multimedia art. Since then she has worked on a wide range of projects, with clients in advertising, animation and kid’s education. She enjoys telling stories and likes to evoke emotions with her illustrations through experimentation with moods and colours. Children’s books illustrated by Sonja are available globally.
About the Project
RAU is a restaurant located on the edge of a natural reserve in Austria and surrounded by stunning nature. It offers artful cuisine, while staying in tune with nature and supporting the local community. Since this is an approach I can whole-heartedly agree with, I was very happy when I was asked to help with the redesign. RAU had a complete brand overhaul to better accommodate and communicate the concept and goals and I got to translate it into a visual language.
As it speaks of the wildness of nature in harmony with fine human touches, I created illustrations combining wild inky strokes and smears with small intricate characters, similar to the way humans refine nature in the art of cuisine, but also dreaming of a more fair and harmonic relationship between mankind and nature.
RAU translates as “rough”, which describes the nature and people in this remote place. This roughness was also part of the character I wanted to represent in my illustrations, as well as creating the feeling of being in tune with the surroundings and part of natural scene. Key words: slightly magical, curious, emotional, exploring, nature, edgy.
First I went to explore the place myself of course. I tried to understand the nature and the character of this beautiful piece of land and the people living on it. Together with the owner I discovered that the area is so rich in textures and little details. I looked at stones, trees and the surface of flowing water.
I used water-based linoleum paint for the textured elements… I smeared it on my hands, pants, plants, and every interesting looking object I could find. I then printed it directly onto paper. After scanning this texture collection I did the colouring and adding details and lines in Photoshop.
A big part of this process involved creating textures and shapes that would represent natural surroundings. I didn’t really know which object would make a good meadow for example, and so I had to spend time experimenting with different objects and materials. This was unusual for me because I normally work in a more organised way. With this project I didn’t plan out a lot. Each illustration just naturally grew from one point to the next.
I live quite far away from the restaurant, so I couldn’t just quickly go and have a look to get inspiration, but had to mainly rely on videos and photos. Also, since the whole brand and interior design was redone at the same a lot of things were in flux. It was important to stay flexible, because things like the colour-palette, for example, changed a few times during the project.
It’s okay to also let your feelings guide you through an illustration process instead of trying to do everything with your head. And even when it sometimes feels like it takes too much time to play around with materials and try new things, it can really pay off to take this extra step. Not only for the project but also because it broadens and extends your skills as an illustrator.
I had other projects going on as well, but they didn’t feel like a distraction. I do like to take a break from one thing for a few days and work on something else to come back with fresh eyes. Luckily the deadlines weren’t too crazy for this project.
About 378 pieces of paper with different texture and shape experiments on them.
There are always things I would do differently in retrospect, which is good, because it shows that I learned and tried new things. Nevertheless, this project was good the way it was and I am happy with the outcome, as is the client.
Everyone has a different path and different struggles. I would tell my younger self just starting out in illustration to breathe, relax, stay calm and keep drawing. Eventually it will all work out! And maybe, for your future self’s sake, remember to take some weekends off every now and then, and to get a good night’s sleep. Balance will take you further than a crunch point!
Illustration is #notahobby. For all of us doing illustration professionally and full time, let’s stand together for a fair industry! Because it really is not just a hobby.